Beach Cake

Hasini’s 4th birthday last month was a beach themed party and I chose to make a beach cake. I’ll tell you exactly how it came about. I first chose the cake and then the theme. The beach cake seemed doable enough – bake the cake, slap the frosting all over, cover three quarters of the top with crushed cookies (I used digestive biscuits) to make the sand and the remaining quarter with blue frosting to make the sea. Boy, was I wrong. I didn’t give much thought to the “blue” frosting part. Guess what, there’s no blue food colour in stores. Atleast not in Nilgiris, Amma Naana, Nuts and Spices or N2H. I was too far into it to change the cake. We’d made the decorations and decided the menu even. I scoured the net for ideas. I even bought purple cabbage to make my own natural blue food colour. You have to boil purple cabbage, reduce the boiled liquid which is purple in colour and finally add baking soda to make it blue. You’ve got to be very careful adding the baking soda as a little too much and the liquid will turn green. Thankfully I didn’t have to go down that path as my friend Priya came to the rescue. She suggested Blue Curacao syrup a lovely deep blue syrup which is used in mocktails. I bought two of these bottles but I ended up using just about 2 tablespoons of it as the frosting was getting too runny. It was maddeningly sultry that day and I didn’t have time to chill the cake after creating the “sea” and the sea sort of surged over. I used Hershey’s perfectlychocolate chocolate cake recipe, doubled it to make two rectangular cakes which I stacked one atop the other. I filled and frosted the cake with this yummy chocolate frosting (I tripled the recipe). I made a small batch of vanilla frosting for the sea. The cake was delightfully moist, chocolatey and absolutely scrummy. The cake was so moist and tender, it was a task slicing and serving given that we didn’t have the cake lifter. Don’t attempt to serve this cake without a cake slicer/lifter. Bake the cakes and make the frosting the day before and then assemble the next day. Breaking the whole thing into components I find helps keep my sanity. Notes: 1.      Line cake pans with butter...

Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut dip

Chicken Satay and Thai Peanut dip is such a superb pair. They go so well with each other and they’re fun. Satay is a great option for a party appetizer, can be prepared well in advance and then grilled or barbecued at the last minute. Satay is super-quick to barbecue or grill, is done in less than 10 minutes. The best part of it is the Thai style peanut dip. It is a delightful medley of flavours and textures – hot, sweet, and nutty with the peanut butter and peanuts giving the dip a smooth yet crunchy texture. Yummy! There are lots of things going for this recipe. You don’t have to make a marinade and a dip separately. It’s all just one thing. You make the peanut dip and use half of it (or how much ever you require) as the marinade and the remaining as the dip. One dip fits all! How about that? A Somberi’s dream come true! This is such a delicious dip that I wouldn’t really mind having extra. I can imagine the dip being extremely chummy with Chinese spring rolls or wontons or any kind of fried fritters. It is really a cool dip to hang out with. I adapted the recipe from Mark Bittman’s book.         Barbecuing is fun. Kids find the whole thing so amusing they’re out of your way the whole time that the fire is being set up. That buys you enough time to prepare lunch, wash and clean up. My husband loves to barbecue, loves starting a fire, some kind of primordial instinct I suppose. So effectively he is also out of the way. Peace! Being able to cook un-plugged, un-interrupted, without being called a hundred times and without being tugged by a 2 ft. little one is what I call peace. Barbecuing is a great weekend family activity and I’d recommend anyone who doesn’t have a barbecue to go out and get one. It need not be any of those very expensive, tripod mounted ones. For weekend barbecuing and the occasional get-togethers, you could go in for a much smaller one. Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 5-8 minutesServes: 5 Ingredients Chicken breasts – 4 cut lengthwise into strips Marinade and Dip Peanut Butter – 2 tbspSoy Sauce – 2 tspSweet lime juice – 3 tbspPeanuts – 3 tbsp coarsely crushedBrown sugar – 1 tspGarlic – 4-5 cloves Shallots...

Home-style Chicken Biryani in Pressure cooker

Biryani is synonymous with celebration and today happens to be women’s day. I am posting an easy home style chicken biryani that can be cooked entirely in a pressure cooker. I am dedicating this biryani recipe to all women (Can dedicate songs, films, match victories, awards and what not? Why not biryani recipe?). I am specially dedicating this recipe to all those time-pressed moms and wives who are always in a rush, who have a hundred items on their to do list and another hundred on their mind, who are constantly putting things back in their places, who are badly in need of a pedicure and haven’t really read the newspaper in a long time (shocking, but I haven’t really read the newspaper since sometime in 2009 when my daughter was born – a cursory glance of the headlines doesn’t count). I hope this recipe helps ease biryani making for you. This is a home style biryani, fragrant and spicy with strong ginger tones. The rice turns out beautifully long and perfectly cooked and the chicken is juicy. Two things to keep in mind are the amount of water and the time you cook the biryani. Watch the amount of water you add at the end and use the index-finger thumb-rule (Ha.. but pun not at all intended). Switch off the stove after 10-12 minutes whether or not you hear the whistle. Follow these steps and you won’t go wrong. Happy Women’s Day! Preparation time – 20 minsCooking time – 30 minsServes: 4-6 Ingredients Chicken – 1/4 kgBasmati Rice/Long grain rice – 2-1/2 cupsOnions – 2 chopped fineTomatoes – 2 choppedGinger paste – 3 tbspGreen Chillies – 4 slit lengthwiseCurd/Yogurt – 1 cupFennel seeds/Sombu – 2 tspCardamom – 2Cinnamon – 1 inch stickCloves – 3Marathi Moggu – 1Star anise – 1Bay Leaf – 1Turmeric powder – 1 tspRed chilli powder – 2-3 tbspGaram Masala powder – 1/2 tspSalt to tasteGhee – 3 tbsp + 1 tbspOil – 2 tbspWater Method 1.      Wash and clean the chicken and cut into fairly large pieces. 2.      Rinse Basmati rice/long grain rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak basmati rice in water for 1 hour. 3.      In a pressure cooker, pour in 3tbsp oil and 2 tbsp oil and when hot, drop the fennel seeds. Let fry till fragrant. Then throw in the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, Marathi moggu, star anise and bay...
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